The education committee is currently undergoing a Special Educational Needs and Disabilities Inquiry - which launched in April of 2018 and is still ongoing. The inquiry is focusing in particular on the reforms that came into place with The Children and Families Act in September 2014. Yesterday there were further intervention broadcasted. I will not go in to these now, as Special Needs Jungle have done a great job explaining the frustration that was witnessed. You can read their blog here: Special Needs Jungle Blog.
The evidence, both oral and written, submitted to the inquiry from councils, bodies and parents has been both enlightening and alarming. Here at Bright Futures, we are well aware of many of the problems within the system and we welcome the opportunity for so many sides both involved in and affected by the system to offer their points of view.
The submitted evidence is available publicly at this link and currently contains over 400 different pieces of evidence.
One very common theme from all perspectives is how difficult the entire system is for parents, in terms of logistics and emotional duress.
The British Dyslexia Association state that there is “a lack of information about the route for applying for an EHCP” and that as a result “parents seem unaware that they can initiate the process.”
In terms of the transition from statements of special educational needs and Learning Disability Assessments to Education, Health and Care Plans, the British Dyslexia Association say that they “have seen a few examples of good practice, but these have been where a child is attending a specialist school and normally with astute parents and legal advice.” This is obviously concerning, as the support a child receives from the system should not be dependant upon their parents.
The charity Parents In Need stated that “in 2016/17 89% of parents won their tribunal case (Special Needs Jungle). And from experience we know that these parents are just the small number who feel able to approach the appeal system, there are many, many more who simply find it too daunting.”
St Barnabus Primary School pointed out another problem, namely that this also puts “certain groups of the population at a disadvantage such as those who are less educated or those who have English as an Additional Language.”
Parents In Need also highlighted the hugely detrimental effect that the entire process can have upon parents emotionally and financially.
“This wrangling between parent and LEA can easily cost both parties tens of thousands of pounds and can have a deeply detrimental effect on families. We are all too aware of how families are torn apart with the stress. The loneliness and despair that parents feel can often cause relationships to end. A number of parents become so desperate that they have committed suicide.”
The National Autistic Society supported how difficult it is for parents trying to navigate getting support for their child - saying that 78% of parents said it has not been easy to get the support their child needs.
“Parents have to fill in the gaps. For parents of children who have severe needs, everything is a struggle – so they may have no time or energy to fight.” [Parent via National Autistic Society]
The National Autistic Society also explained that parents have told them that “because their local authority did not request assessments by key professionals that would enable their child to access the provision they need, they have paid for their own independent reports.”
It is obviously an unfair burden to be placed on parents that they should be required to pay for and gather evidence that local authorities should be doing. As the National Autistic Society says, “While many parents are outstanding advocates for their children, good outcomes should not depend on parents being prepared to fight, or having the personal resources to do so.”
Importantly, the inquiry has also received a large amount of written evidence from parents themselves.
One parent (submission 139) agrees that “far too much is left to the parents” and that “in my experience unless you push hard you won’t gain much support. This is exhausting for any parent with a disabled or SEN child.”
Another parent (submission 47) agrees, saying that “parents have to take charge of the situation and chase various professionals and institutions.”
This is, of course, incredibly difficult for the majority of parents, especially when, as a parent (139) rightly points out, “many parents aren’t aware of what High Needs funding or an EHCP even are, let alone what an educational psychologist is.”
The really disheartening reality many parents are facing is that even after potentially great expense financially and emotionally, they still might not receive the support they require.
As one parent (submission 46) said “I had to use every ounce of energy and every breath I had to battle for support in primary school [my daughter’s] first high school with no success. I could not have tried any harder as a parent but still failed.”
And so it continues. Lets hope that the inquiry brings about some change.
We are here through this draining and disheartening time. If you need to simply chat through your EHCP, book below: